I am stepping away from the ongoing series about the attributes of God to do a well timed book review. Well, to be honest it is more of an overdue book review than it is a well timed one. I had finished the book in question about a month ago, but due to demands on my time and the unfortunate propensity to procrastinate, I hadn’t set fingers to keyboard. Therefore, in order to remedy this let me dive into the book review proper.
Contend: Defending the Faith in a Fallen World
Aaron Armstrong’s Contending: Defending the Faith in a Fallen World is the latest offering from Cruciform Press. As you can probably gather from its title, the book is about contending for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. Given that I have just quoted Jude 3 I know it will be almost impossible to avoid assumptions about the contents of this book. I am not saying Jude 3 is controversial, but depending on your theological bent, or your particular philosophical approach to doing church, you will likely have some preconceived ideas on the necessity and application of contending for the faith. Let me assure you that regardless of your perspective you will find Contend a balanced and challenging book.
Let me begin by saying there is a definite need for this book. In a time where postmodern thinking permeates the very air we breath, truth ceases to be absolute and is merely thought of as subjective and relative. When this type of thinking enters the church you are bound to have casualties, not the least of which being the authority and truthfulness of Scripture. When the Church entertains the view that the Truth is merely one of many truths, compromise emerges as the word of the day, and our motivation to contend for the faith goes out the window. However, before one can prescribe a solution, one must understand how the malady came to be.
Aaron is keenly aware of this fact, and begins his book by attempting to give a brief historical perspective on the problem at hand. He does a masterful job identifying some of the key threads running through the tapestry that is culture and church, while never singling out any one particular thread. No finger pointing here. Both seeker-sensitive and fundamentalist should read this book and feel they were treated fairly. Although there is genuine value in understanding the context of the problem, the real strength of Contend are the practical applications mentioned in later chapters.
What I Liked
What I ultimately appreciated about this book was the way in which Aaron acknowledged that contending must be motivated and directed by mercy, grace and love. To often we contend over the wrong things or for the wrong reasons. In Aaron’s words:
Contending must be understood and exercised as an act of mercy toward those who doubt and those who have been deceived, regardless of whether they claim faith in Christ.
The other thing I enjoyed about Contend was the fact the practical applications spoke to those both in the pulpit and the pews. When browsing for books you can pretty much tell the author’s intended audience. Let’s be honest, some books have a narrower audience than others. Laity likely have very little interest in books on preaching, while those in the clergy are probably not looking to add a daily devotional to their library. Contend is unique in that its intended audience is the Bible believing Christian, which includes everyone who is of faith. If you are the person behind the pulpit or you are the person sitting in the seats you will find a practical application on how to contend for the faith.
The only issue I potentially had with Contend, was with Aaron’s advice to those who had concerns with a church leader. This is such a minor concern I wasn’t even going to include it in my review. However, for the purpose of full disclosure I might as well include it. Aaron suggested that those who have concerns with a church leader should first discreetly speak with a small number of trusted friends to test their discernment. This is always a difficult issue to handle. Because of my position and background I would lean more toward the individual approaching the leader, and in a respectful fashion talk about their concerns. I am a big proponent on voicing concerns upward instead of sideways. I think Aaron’s advice is sound if he simply added the clarification that those trusted friends should also be mature in the Lord and well respected in the church. I am sure that was the unspoken assumption in his advice. Since Contend is written for the broader Christian audience there is always the chance someone who is young in the Lord could pick up this book and exercise his advice by going to another new believer, potentially resulting in confusion and/or strife. (Like I said, a very minor detail which I probably didn’t have to include in this review. I give everyone and anyone permission to omit this section if they choose to repost this review.)
I would recommend this book to any and all believers. Ultimately if we are to take our faith seriously we will have to contend for (struggle for and on behalf of) the truth. Contending: Defending the Faith in a Fallen World is a powerful and useful book which will not only provoke you if you need provoking, but it will equip you with practical tools on how to contend in a world that won’t celebrate you when you do take a stand. You can pick up your own copy here.
P.s. If you are interested in Aaron Armstrong’s blog you can find it here.